A girl’s guide to growing up in college

The term “growing up” is most often associated with children and teenagers, but once we emerge victorious from the oh-so-bittersweet forest of the teen years, we want nothing more than to disassociate from every term that can be used to describe juveniles. But the fact is that adults grow up, too… especially college students. If you’re a young adult growing up in college like me, remember this advice.

On physical appearances: No matter how much people tell you not to, you’re going to compare yourself to others. It’s normal. But once you start putting yourself down or trying to change yourself to meet a certain standard, that’s when it becomes unhealthy. Don’t change yourself for anybody but you. Embrace your flaws and insecurities. That way, no one can use them against you. Keep up with trends. Try to learn how to be comfortable in your own skin. You should never feel ashamed of your body. There is no perfect body type. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to wear makeup or certain clothes if it makes you feel more confident. Just go for it. Never apologize for who you are or what you like.

On self-worth: Know that you are an amazing person worthy of love and respect. Your opinion matters. Never let anyone tell you it doesn’t. Don’t spread yourself too thin trying to please everyone. It doesn’t work, and you’ll just end up being the one who’s unhappy. Don’t try to be the best at everything, because you’re not. Be humble about your skill and strength. Don’t boast or brag. You’ll lose friends and respect that way. Don’t seek approval from your peers, but accept it graciously when it’s given. Never put someone else down to impress people or to get attention. If one of your friends does that, to you or to someone else, tell them to cut it out or cut them out of your life. Surround yourself with positive people. Never settle for less than you deserve. When you go out with a super cute outfit and think you look damn good that day, make sure that you and your friends take pictures. Don’t take no for an answer.

On integrity: Don’t feel like you have to prove anything to anyone. You don’t owe anyone anything. Not everyone you meet is going to like you. Accept that fact. Own it. Don’t let it bother you. Be assertive and aggressive when you need to be. If someone disrespects you or puts you down, don’t even give them the satisfaction of your anger. Calmly stand your ground and stick up for yourself, or walk away and be the bigger person. Pick one or the other. The minute you have to raise your voice, you’ve lost the argument. Don’t make fun of people or make jokes at their expense. Don’t embarrass them on purpose. It’s horrible, and you’ll regret it when you look back. Don’t say things you don’t mean. Stand by your word. Compliment people, but only if it’s genuine.

On socializing: Get a unique phone case. It’s a very useful conversation starter and it’s a little ego-boost every time someone compliments it. Give criticism gently and privately. Don’t talk negatively about people behind their back. I know it’s hard, but just don’t. If you wouldn’t tell that person what you said about them, then that’s crossing the line. Don’t start drama with people you don’t like for no reason. Odds are, whatever you’re mad about is stupid.

On personality: You can be sassy and confident all you want, but don’t be a bitch. Just because you’re sassy and confident, that does NOT automatically make you a bitch. If anyone describes an ambitious, independent woman as “intimidating,” “overwhelming,” or “bitchy” just means they can’t handle when a woman has confidence. They should call you “awesome” instead. Do not allow anyone to take advantage of you. Don’t be a pushover.

On sex and sexuality: There’s nothing wrong with being a virgin. Don’t do it just “to get it over with.” Remember that you are in control of all your sexual encounters. Your partner should not have to talk you into anything. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with your sexuality. There’s also nothing wrong with not knowing your sexuality. Sexuality is a spectrum, not a scale. It’s not black or white. If you’re nervous around someone you like, I truly believe in the home field advantage. You’ll be more comfortable and relaxed in your own house or in a place that you’re the most familiar with. That comfort will give you confidence.

On lifestyle: Try everything at least once. Except heroin. Or meth. Not even once. Take risks sometimes, even small ones that make your heart beat a little bit faster. Don’t start smoking cigarettes. Just don’t.

On your education: Get help if you need help. Ask questions when you don’t understand. Know off the top of your head whether it’s better to half-ass your homework and turn it in when it’s due, or whole-ass it and take the late penalty. Ask someone you trust to proofread important essays. Try to stay organized. It’ll pay off in the long run. Learn how to write a professional email. Learn the steps of writing a good essay.

Most importantly, stay true to yourself.

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